Saturday, July 02, 2011

“Injin Sigal”

Living in Kampong Aing aka the Water Village in the 1970s, shopping was very different. Instead of you going to the shop, the shop went to your doorstep. Literally! Most people I am sure have heard of the padian, ladies who paddled around Kampong Aing in small boats known as ‘jumpung’, selling foodstuff and groceries. This is a well known, often mentioned history of Kampong Aing.

A lesser known part of this shopping at your doorstep was the few chinese ‘merchants’ in small boats powered by low powered outboard engines peddling all sorts of clothing and shoes. You could here them coming with the loud noise yet you waited for ages for the boat to appear. Grunt like a tiger but slow as a snail. Remember those days the surroundings tend to be quieter.

With inadequate knowledge and almost non-existence of English vocabulary, I got to know the outboard engines were called ‘injin sigal’ and always linked to ‘slow like a tortoise’ engines. This stayed with me until recently. With hindsight, I should have known better. Like some strange sounding Brunei Malay words, it had a British origin. There are plenty examples of this. ‘Gostan’ which came from ‘go stern’, ‘paip jus’ from exhaust pipe, ‘obasir’ from obverseers are amongst these words.

So it is of no surprise ‘injin sigal’ has got British origin. The ‘sigal’ was in fact a low powered (10 horse power?) two stroke outboard engines named ‘British Seagull’. Now it makes sense where the ‘injin sigal’ originated. Surprisingly, this particular brand of engines is still in the market since the first models were rolled out in the 1930s. There are even groups keeping the memories of the British Seagull. More about this can be read here. 

The days of the ‘injin sigal’ in Kampong Aing are long gone. Now we have high powered, petrol guzzling outboard engines powered boats criss crossing the river. May be, as part of the effort in reducing our carbon footprint, we can reintroduce the ‘injin sigal’ to replace these high powered engines. At the very least, we will be transported back to the days when life was slower and more tranquil……